US20130032665A1 - Active Vent and Re-Inflation System for a Crash Attenuation Airbag - Google Patents

Active Vent and Re-Inflation System for a Crash Attenuation Airbag Download PDF

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Publication number
US20130032665A1
US20130032665A1 US13/641,426 US201013641426A US2013032665A1 US 20130032665 A1 US20130032665 A1 US 20130032665A1 US 201013641426 A US201013641426 A US 201013641426A US 2013032665 A1 US2013032665 A1 US 2013032665A1
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Prior art keywords
actuator
airbag
gas
door
vent passage
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Granted
Application number
US13/641,426
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US8870115B2 (en
Inventor
Zi Lu
Cheng-Ho Tho
Michael R. Smith
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Textron Innovations Inc
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Bell Helicopter Textron Inc
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Priority to PCT/US2010/062300 priority Critical patent/WO2012091700A1/en
Assigned to BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON INC. reassignment BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: LU, ZI, SMITH, MICHAEL R., THO, CHENG-HO
Publication of US20130032665A1 publication Critical patent/US20130032665A1/en
Assigned to TEXTRON INNOVATIONS INC. reassignment TEXTRON INNOVATIONS INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON INC.
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C25/00Alighting gear
    • B64C25/32Alighting gear characterised by the ground or like engaging elements
    • B64C25/54Floats
    • B64C25/56Floats inflatable
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C25/00Alighting gear
    • B64C25/32Alighting gear characterised by the ground or like engaging elements
    • B64C25/52Skis or runners
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64CAEROPLANES; HELICOPTERS
    • B64C25/00Alighting gear
    • B64C25/32Alighting gear characterised by the ground or like engaging elements
    • B64C2025/325Alighting gear characterised by the ground or like engaging elements specially adapted for helicopters
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B64AIRCRAFT; AVIATION; COSMONAUTICS
    • B64DEQUIPMENT FOR FITTING IN OR TO AIRCRAFT; FLYING SUITS; PARACHUTES; ARRANGEMENTS OR MOUNTING OF POWER PLANTS OR PROPULSION TRANSMISSIONS IN AIRCRAFT
    • B64D2201/00Airbags mounted in aircraft for any use

Abstract

A crash attenuation system has an airbag inflatable generally adjacent to an exterior of the aircraft. The system includes a gas generator in fluid communication with an interior of the airbag. The system also includes a vent system having a vent passage supported by the aircraft, the vent passage being configured to allow gas to escape from within the airbag during an impact. The vent system also includes an actuator door for sealing the vent passage, thereby preventing gas from leaving the airbag. The actuator door is actuated by an actuator, the actuator being in fluid communication with the gas generator through an actuator duct. The system operates such that deployment of gas from the gas generator causes the actuator to inflate, thereby causing the actuator door to seal the vent passage. The gas generator is configured to re-inflate the airbag after the actuator door seals the vent passage.

Description

    TECHNICAL FIELD
  • The system of the present application relates to airbags for a vehicle. In particular, the system of the present application relates to a vent system for use with external airbags for an aircraft.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE PRIOR ART
  • Conventional airbag systems typically don't have a means for resealing after venting during a crash. As such, the airbag vents through a blow-away valve, or the like. Other conventional airbag systems may rely upon a designated actuator system for controlling airflow and/or sealing an airbag vent passage. A designated actuator system adds complexity and weight to the aircraft.
  • Although the developments in airbag systems have produced significant improvements, considerable shortcomings remain.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The novel features believed characteristic of the system of the present application are set forth in the appended claims. However, the system itself, as well as a preferred mode of use, and further objectives and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference to the following detailed description when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which the leftmost significant digit(s) in the reference numerals denote(s) the first figure in which the respective reference numerals appear, wherein:
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a rotorcraft equipped with an external airbag system;
  • FIG. 2 is stylized block diagram of the rotorcraft shown in FIG. 1;
  • FIG. 3 is a partial perspective view of a vent and re-inflation system, according to the preferred embodiment of the present application;
  • FIG. 4 is a partially sectioned side view of the vent and re-inflation system shown in FIG. 3;
  • FIG. 5 is a partially sectioned side view of the vent and re-inflation system shown in FIG. 3; and
  • FIG. 6 is a partially sectioned side view of the vent and re-inflation system shown in FIG. 3.
  • While the system of the present application is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, specific embodiments thereof have been shown by way of example in the drawings and are herein described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the description herein of specific embodiments is not intended to limit the method to the particular forms disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the application as defined by the appended claims.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
  • Illustrative embodiments of the system of the present application are described below. In the interest of clarity, not all features of an actual implementation are described in this specification. It will of course be appreciated that in the development of any such actual embodiment, numerous implementation-specific decisions must be made to achieve the developer's specific goals, such as compliance with system-related and business-related constraints, which will vary from one implementation to another. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time-consuming but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking for those of ordinary skill in the art having the benefit of this disclosure.
  • In the specification, reference may be made to the spatial relationships between various components and to the spatial orientation of various aspects of components as the devices are depicted in the attached drawings. However, as will be recognized by those skilled in the art after a complete reading of the present application, the devices, members, apparatuses, etc. described herein may be positioned in any desired orientation. Thus, the use of terms such as “above,” “below,” “upper,” “lower,” or other like terms to describe a spatial relationship between various components or to describe the spatial orientation of aspects of such components should be understood to describe a relative relationship between the components or a spatial orientation of aspects of such components, respectively, as the device described herein may be oriented in any desired direction.
  • The inflatable crash attenuation system of the present application includes one or more airbags that are inflated prior to impact so as to reduce occupant injury and aircraft structure damage and vented during impact so as to prevent an undesired secondary impact. The system is configured to be selectively re-inflated after venting. The system can be used on a number of different types of aircraft, for example, helicopter, fixed wing aircraft, and other aircraft, and in particular those that are rotorcraft.
  • FIG. 1 shows a rotorcraft 101 incorporating the crash attenuation system according to the present disclosure. Rotorcraft 101 comprises a fuselage 111 and a tail boom 115. A rotor system 103 provides lift and propulsive forces for flight of rotorcraft 101. A pilot sits in a cockpit 113 in a forward portion of fuselage 111. A landing gear 117 extends from a lower portion of fuselage 111 for supporting rotorcraft 101 on a rigid surface, such as the ground. It should be appreciated that even though landing gear is depicted as skid gear, the systems of the present application may be implemented on a rotorcraft having other types of landing gear, such as a retractable landing gear, as an example.
  • A malfunction with rotor system 103, the drive system, or any other flight critical component, may necessitate a descent from altitude at a higher rate of speed than is desirable. If the rate is an excessively high value at impact with the ground or water, the occupants of rotorcraft 101 may be injured. Further, such an impact may cause rotorcraft 101 to be severely damaged by the decelerative forces exerted on rotorcraft 101. To reduce these forces, an external airbag system comprising inflatable, non-porous airbags 107 and 109 is installed under fuselage 111. Though not shown in the drawings, airbags 107 and 109 are stored in an un-inflated condition and are inflated under the control of a crash attenuation control system.
  • It should be appreciated that the quantity and geometry of airbags 107 and 109 may take on a variety of configurations. Each airbag, such as airbag 107, preferably has a relatively non-porous bladder. In a preferred embodiment, the bladder is formed of a fabric that comprises resilient material such as Kevlar and/or Vectran. A vent may communicate with the interior of the bladder, allowing for gas to controllably escape from within the airbag 107.
  • FIG. 2 shows airbags 107 and 109 mounted to a lower portion of fuselage 111 and shows additional components of the crash attenuation system according to the present disclosure. A computer-based control system 119, which is shown mounted within fuselage 111, is provided for controlling the operation of components associated with airbags 107 and 109. Each airbag 107 and 109 has a gas controller 121 for controlling one or more gas generators 305 a-305 e (shown in FIGS. 4-6) for inflation of the airbags 107 and 109. In addition, the crash attenuation system has a sensor system 123 for detecting crash conditions used to control external airbag system 105, such as rate of descent and/or ground proximity. External airbag system 105 may also have a water-detection system (not shown), which may have sensors mounted on fuselage 111 for detecting a crash in water. Gas controller 121, components for airbags 107 and 109, and sensor system 123 are in communication with control system 119, allowing control system 119 to communicate with, monitor, and control the operation of these attached components. In addition, control system 119 may be in communication with a flight computer or other system for allowing the pilot to control operation of the crash attenuation system. For example, the pilot may be provided means to override, disarm, or arm the crash attenuation system.
  • The sensor system 123 is shown in FIG. 2 as a discrete component for the sake of convenience. However, it should be noted that actual implementations of the sensor system 123 can comprise a number of components that are located at various locations on the rotorcraft 101. The sensor system 123 may include, for example, sensors for detecting pitch and roll attitude, pitch and roll rate, airspeed, altitude, rate of descent, fluid at impact surface, and slope of the impact surface.
  • FIG. 3 shows a partial top view of a vent and re-inflation system 301. System 301 includes a vent passage 303 configured to selectively vent air from airbag 107. Vent passage 303 is formed by rigid substrates, such as sheet metal, composite structure, or another rigid material. Vent passage 303 is preferably long enough to extend beyond the upper portion of airbag 107 in order to prevent airbag 107 from inadvertently acting as a seal against second opening 309. Gas controller 121 selectively controls the operation of gas generators 305 a-305 e (shown in FIGS. 4-6), which are in fluid communication with an interior of airbag 107. It should be appreciated that vent and re-inflation system 301 is discussed herein with regards to airbag 107 to the sake of clarity. However, vent and re-inflation system 301 is also included as part of airbag 109. Furthermore, vent and re-inflation system 301 may be included in a wide variety of airbag system configurations.
  • FIGS. 4-6 show stylized side views of vent and re-inflation system 301 at different stages of operation. System 301 includes a plurality of gas generators 305 a-305 e. Vent passage 303 extends between a first opening 307 and a second opening 309. First opening 307 facilitates fluid communication between an interior of airbag 107 and vent passage 303. Similarly, second opening 309 facilitates fluid communication between vent passage 303 and an exterior environment. Vent passage 303 may include one or more flow valves to selectively change the flow rate of gas venting through vent passage 303.
  • The gas generators 305 a-305 e may be of wide variety of configurations and various types, such as gas-generating chemical devices, combustive systems, and compressed air, to name a few, for providing gas for inflation of airbags 107 and 109. For example, gas generators 305 a-305 e may be individual gas generators, such that each gas generator is independently operable to selectively provide pressurized gas to the interior of airbag 107 or actuator duct 313. Further, gas generators 305 a-305 e may be a plurality of ports, each port being connected to a singular gas generator that is configured to selectively operate and direct pressurized gas to one or more ports.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates system 301 in a deflating mode, such that gas is leaving airbag 107 through vent passage 303, as indicated by arrows 325 a-325 c. Deflating mode occurs to provide controlled energy attenuation during an impact, as well as prevent a secondary impact. Prior to the deflating of airbag 107 during impact, airbag 107 was fully inflated by gas generators 305 a-305 d. Preferably, at least one gas generator, such as gas generator 305 e, is reserved for re-inflation of airbag 107, as discussed further herein.
  • Re-inflation of airbag 107 is particularly advantageous when rotorcraft 101 has an impact on a fluid surface, such as a lake, river, ocean, and the like. Re-inflation of airbag 107 allows airbag 107 to serve as a flotation device, in addition to initially providing crash attenuation. By configuring airbag 107 to serve dual purposes of crash attenuation and subsequent flotation, system 301 is more efficient and lightweight than having two separate and distinct crash attenuation and flotation systems.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates system 301 in a vent closing mode, which occurs after airbag 107 has been vented during impact (as shown in FIG. 4). System 301 includes a pneumatic actuator assembly 321. Pneumatic actuator assembly 321 includes an actuator duct 313, an actuator airbag 317, and an actuator door 315. In the preferred embodiment, sensor system 123 determines that rotorcraft 101 has made impact with on a liquid surface. Gas controller 121 then receives a signal instructing the gas controller 121 to expend gas generator 305 e in order to close vent passage 303 and re-inflate airbag 107. Gas generator 305 e sends high pressure gas through the actuator duct 313 and into actuator airbag 317. High pressure gas from gas generator 305 e forces actuator airbag 317 to expand, thereby closing actuator door 315. The closing of actuator door 315, with actuator airbag 317, results in a seal so that gas can no longer evacuate (or enter) through vent passage 303. Actuator airbag 317 is preferably of a resilient non-porous material, similar to that of airbag 107. When actuator airbag 317 fills with gas from gas generator 305 e, actuator airbag 317 applies positive forces against actuator door 315. In an alternative embodiment, a porous grate 335 (shown in FIG. 6), or screen, may be located upstream in vent passage 303 in order to keep actuator airbag 317 from bulging away from actuator door.
  • Actuator door 315 is preferably hinged so that it rotates about the hinge during deployment. Prior to deployment, actuator door 315 is held open by a shear pin 331. Shear pin 331 is configured to shear off when actuator airbag 317 builds with pressure, thereby releasing actuator door 315. It should be appreciate that actuator door 315 may take on a wide variety of configurations.
  • Referring now to FIG. 6, after actuator airbag 317 is fully deployed, thus resulting in the closing of actuator door 315, back pressure builds from the continued expelling of gas from gas generator 305 e. The resulting pressure causes a blow-away door 323 to open, thereby allowing the gas generator 305 e to re-inflate airbag 107. Direction arrow 329 indicates the path of gas from gas generator 305 e into airbag 107. At this stage, airbag 107 is acting as a flotation airbag. As the blow-away door 323 opens, it is preferred that one-way valves 311 a and 311 b operate to prevent the deflation of actuator airbag 317 via actuator duct 313. In an alternative embodiment, a latch, or similar device, is used to prevent actuator door 315 from releasing from the closed position, in lieu of one-way valves 311 a and 311 b. Blow-away door 323 may be any pressure relief valve capable of diverting gas into airbag 107 after a predetermined pressure has been reached.
  • Actuator door 315 preferably sits against a stop 333, or frame that facilitates sealing contact between actuator door 315 and the interior of vent passage 303. Furthermore, a compliant seal may be used between stop 333 and actuator door 315 to facilitate sealing contact therebetween.
  • With airbag 107 re-inflated, airbag 107 functions to supplement flotation of rotorcraft 101. It should be appreciated that other flotation bags may be used to augment the flotation provided by airbag 107. For example, one or more outrigger flotation airbags may be deployed at the outboard portions of the rotorcraft 101 in order to contribute to flotation and stability.
  • The system of the present application provides significant advantages, including: (1) allowing the crash attenuation airbag to function as a flotation airbag subsequent an impact; (2) providing an actuator system that is actuated by the gas generator system that is used to initially inflate the crash attenuation airbag; and (3) allowing the gas generator system to function as to close the actuator door, in addition to inflating and re-inflating the airbag.
  • The particular embodiments disclosed above are illustrative only, as the application may be modified and practiced in different but equivalent manners apparent to those skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings herein. Furthermore, no limitations are intended to the details of construction or design herein shown, other than as described in the claims below. It is therefore evident that the particular embodiments disclosed above may be altered or modified and all such variations are considered within the scope and spirit of the application. Accordingly, the protection sought herein is as set forth in the claims below. It is apparent that a system with significant advantages has been described and illustrated. Although the system of the present application is shown in a limited number of forms, it is not limited to just these forms, but is amenable to various changes and modifications without departing from the spirit thereof.

Claims (22)

1. A crash attenuation system for an aircraft, the system comprising:
an airbag inflatable generally adjacent to an exterior of the aircraft;
a first gas generator in fluid communication with an interior of the airbag for inflating the airbag with gas; and
a vent system, the vent system comprising:
a vent passage being configured to allow gas to escape from within the airbag during an impact;
an actuator door configured to selectively seal the vent passage, thereby preventing gas from leaving the airbag;
an actuator located proximate to the actuator door; and
an actuator duct that provides fluid communication between a second gas generator and the actuator;
wherein deployment of gas from the second gas generator causes the actuator to inflate, thereby causing the actuator door to seal the vent passage.
2. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, wherein the actuator is an airbag actuator.
3. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, wherein the actuator is a pneumatic actuator.
4. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, the vent system further comprising:
a latch configured to lock the actuator door in the closed position.
5. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, the vent system further comprising:
a one-way valve located in the actuator duct to prevent gas from moving away from the actuator.
6. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, the vent system further comprising:
a pressure release valve configured to allow gas from the second gas generator to re-inflate the airbag after the actuator door has created a seal in the vent passage.
7. The crash attenuation system according to claim 6, wherein the pressure release valve is a blow-away door.
8. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, further comprising:
a sensor system configured to detect a type of crash impact surface; and
a control system configured to selectively re-inflate the airbag based on the detected type of crash impact surface.
9. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, wherein the actuator door is hingedly connected to the vent passage.
10. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, further comprising:
a stop located in the vent passage, the stop being configured so that the actuator door is closed against the stop.
11. The crash attenuation system according to claim 10, further comprising:
a seal between the stop and the actuator door.
12. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, further comprising:
a grate located in the vent passage, the grate being configured to provide positive pressure against the actuator when the actuator is deployed.
13. The crash attenuation system according to claim 1, further comprising:
a shear pin configured to selectively keep the actuator door in an open position.
14. A crash attenuation system for an aircraft, the system comprising:
an airbag inflatable generally adjacent to an exterior of the aircraft;
a gas generator having at least a first port and a second port, the first port being in fluid communication with an interior of the airbag; and
a vent system, the vent system comprising:
a vent passage being configured to allow gas to escape from within the airbag during an impact;
an actuator door configured to selectively seal the vent passage, thereby preventing gas from leaving the airbag;
an actuator located proximate to the actuator door; and
an actuator duct that provides fluid communication between the second port and the actuator;
wherein deployment of gas from the second gas generator causes the actuator to inflate, thereby causing the actuator door to close, thereby sealing the vent passage.
15. The crash attenuation system according to claim 14, the vent system further comprising:
a blow-away door configured to selectively allow gas from the second gas generator to re-inflate the airbag after the actuator door has created a seal in the vent passage.
16. The crash attenuation system according to claim 14, further comprising:
a frame located in the vent passage, the frame being configured to create a seal between the actuator door and the vent passage.
17. The crash attenuation system according to claim 14, further comprising:
a sensor system configured to detect a type of crash surface; and
a control system configured to selectively re-inflate the airbag based on the detected type of crash surface.
18. A method of operating a crash attenuation airbag on an aircraft, the method comprising:
detecting a crash condition of the aircraft, the crash condition indicating that subsequent flotation of the aircraft is desirable;
inflating the crash attenuation airbag prior to impact, the inflating occurring with a gas generator;
venting the crash attenuation airbag during impact, the venting occurring by allowing gas to exit the airbag through a vent passage;
sealing the vent passage in order to cease venting of the airbag, the sealing of the vent passage occurring by closing an actuator door by communicating pressurized gas to an actuator, the pressurized gas sourcing from the gas generator, the actuator expanding from the pressurized gas so as to forcibly close the actuator door; and
re-inflating the airbag with the gas generator so that the airbag aids in flotation of the aircraft.
19. The method according to claim 18, wherein the step of re-inflating the airbag occurs when a blow-away door allows air to enter the airbag.
20. The method according to claim 18, wherein the step of sealing the vent passage closes the actuator door against a stop, the stop being located in the vent passage.
21. The method according to claim 18, wherein the step of sealing the vent passage shears a shear pin so as to allow the actuator door to release.
22. The method according to claim 18, wherein the gas generator has a plurality of ports, each port being independently capable of providing pressurized gas, each port also being controlled by a gas controller.
US13/641,426 2010-12-29 2010-12-29 Active vent and re-inflation system for a crash attenuation airbag Active 2029-10-20 US8870115B2 (en)

Priority Applications (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
PCT/US2010/062300 WO2012091700A1 (en) 2010-12-29 2010-12-29 Active vent and re-inflation system for a crash attenuation airbag

Related Parent Applications (8)

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US13125884 Continuation-In-Part
US13380925 Continuation-In-Part
PCT/US2009/051815 Continuation-In-Part WO2011014152A1 (en) 2009-07-27 2009-07-27 Aircraft occupant protection system
PCT/US2009/051821 Continuation-In-Part WO2011014153A1 (en) 2009-07-27 2009-07-27 Aircraft occupant protection system
US13/380,925 Continuation-In-Part US8588996B2 (en) 2005-11-09 2009-07-27 Aircraft occupant protection system
US13/125,884 Continuation-In-Part US8474753B2 (en) 2007-10-22 2009-07-27 Aircraft occupant protection system
PCT/US2010/062300 A-371-Of-International WO2012091700A1 (en) 2010-12-29 2010-12-29 Active vent and re-inflation system for a crash attenuation airbag
US13/641,426 Continuation-In-Part US8870115B2 (en) 2010-12-29 2010-12-29 Active vent and re-inflation system for a crash attenuation airbag

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US14/525,947 Continuation-In-Part US9260192B2 (en) 2009-07-27 2014-10-28 Active vent and re-inflation system for a crash attentuation airbag

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US20130062465A1 (en) * 2011-02-23 2013-03-14 Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. High Efficiency External Airbag for Crash Attenuation
US20140158823A1 (en) * 2012-12-07 2014-06-12 Michael Smith High altitude balloon system
US8870115B2 (en) * 2010-12-29 2014-10-28 Textron Innovations Inc. Active vent and re-inflation system for a crash attenuation airbag
US9260192B2 (en) 2009-07-27 2016-02-16 Textron Innovations Inc. Active vent and re-inflation system for a crash attentuation airbag
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US8870115B2 (en) 2014-10-28
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EP2630035B1 (en) 2015-02-18
CA2821326C (en) 2015-11-24

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